Marine from Cypress feared dead after training accident in California

SAN DIEGO, California (KTRK) -- One of the Marines presumed dead in a tragic amphibious vehicle accident in California is from Cypress. A second Marine who died at the scene is also from Texas, but outside of the Houston area.

Officials with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) said 23-year-old Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd is among those believed to have died. He was a rifleman with Bravo Company, (Battalion Landing Team) BLT 1/4, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

ABC13 has learned Rodd was from the Cypress area, and he recently had a child. A GoFundMe account, which had already more than doubled its goal of $10,000, has been set up for Rodd's family.

Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene before being transported by helicopter to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego. Perez was a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.

Sadly, the following men are also presumed dead:

  • Pft. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU
  • Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU
  • Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU
  • U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California, a hospital corpsman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU
  • Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU
  • Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU
  • Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU


Injured were:

A Marine rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU. The Marine was transported from the scene to Scripps Memorial Hospital by helicopter and was in critical condition.

On Sunday, the seven marines and one Navy sailor were presumed dead after the military called off its search for the group, which went missing after an amphibious vehicle sank during a training mission in California Thursday.

Navy and Coast Guard officials decided to end the effort after an extensive 40 hours.
"It is with a heavy heart that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,'' said Col. Christopher Bronzi, the commanding officer of the 15th MEU. "As we turn to recovery operations, we will continue our exhaustive search for our missing Marines and sailor.''

RELATED: 1 Marine killed, 8 missing after amphibious vehicle accident off coast of San Clemente Island, officials say

All of the victims' next-of-kin have been notified.

There were 15 Marines and a Navy sailor in the vehicle around 5:45 p.m. Thursday when it started taking on water as it traveled from the shores of San Clemente Island to a Navy ship, said Lt. Cameron H. Edinburgh, a Marine Corps spokesman for Camp Pendleton, said at a Friday afternoon news conference.

Other assault vehicles quickly responded but couldn't stop the 26-ton, tank-like vehicle from quickly sinking, Osterman said.

"The assumption is that it went completely to the bottom" several hundred feet below, Osterman said. That was too deep for divers, and Navy and Coast Guard were discussing ways to reach the sunken vehicle to get a view inside it, Osterman said.

Seven other Marines were rescued from the water. Two were in stable condition at a hospital, authorities said.

All the Marines were attached to the 15th MEU, based at nearby Camp Pendleton. They ranged in age from 19 to early 30s and all were wearing combat gear, including body armor, and flotation vests, Osterman said.

The vehicle, known as an AAV but nicknamed an "amtrac," for "amphibious tractor" is used to take Marines and their gear from Navy ships to land.

The sunken craft, one of 13 involved in the exercise, was designed to be naturally buoyant and had three water-tight hatches and two large troop hatches, Osterman said.

The vehicles have been used since 1972, and continually refurbished. Marine Corps officials said Friday they did not know the age or other details of the one that sank.

The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. David Berger, suspended waterborne operations of more than 800 amphibious assault vehicles across the branch until the cause of the accident is determined.

Thursday's accident marks the third time in less than a decade that Camp Pendleton Marines have been injured or died in amphibious assault vehicles during training exercises.



In 2017, 14 Marines and one Navy sailor were hospitalized after their vehicle hit a natural gas line, igniting a fire that engulfed the landing craft during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton, the sprawling coastal Marine Corps base north of San Diego.

And in 2011, a Marine died when an amphibious assault vehicle in a training exercise sank off the shores of Camp Pendleton.

The Marines use the vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to land. They are nicknamed "amtracs" because the original name for the vehicle was "amphibious tractor."

The armored vehicles outfitted with machine guns and grenade launchers look like tanks as they roll ashore for beach attacks, with Marines pouring out of them to take up positions.

The I Marine Expeditionary Force is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force whose mission is "generating, deploying, and employing ready forces and formations for crisis response, forward presence, major combat operations, and campaigns."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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